Guest post by Fox Tour Manager, Elizabeth Cramer
New Zealand, meaning The Land of the Long White Cloud, is a harkening to the raw, dangerous beauty that can still only be found in certain parts of this marked up world. At first glance, the aesthetic itself could be mistaken as the offspring of Iceland and Hawaii. Add in some brash humor and a touch of Polynesia and you’ll be disconcerted as to where the plane just touched down. It’s a unique conflation of original culture with a melting pot of immigrants, adventurers and hippies. Perhaps above all, it’s a country known for powerfully natural landscapes; a young land mass not yet jaded by wear and tear. People know better than to over-handle New Zealand, afraid to leave fingerprints on nature’s favorite vase.
Starting the trip in Auckland was the perfect choice for access to attractions while seeing the city (don’t miss visiting the Sky Tower for the ultimate view) and after a day of regaining our bearings and fighting off jetlag, we were ready to jump right into the northern island of New Zealand with a trip off the coast to Waiheke for a vineyard tour and tasting of New Zealand’s finest wines.
The next day was exciting as we embarked on a full day of exploring landmarks starting with the Glowworm Caves of Waitomo. “Wai” meaning water and “Tomo” meaning sinkhole, this is what I would classify as a low key natural wonder. As we sailed in complete silence (noise frightens the worms into “no-glow” hiding mode), Arachnacampa luminosa slowly started to light up the ceiling above our small boats. Thousands upon thousands of these astounding creatures, completely unique to New Zealand, resembled holiday icicle lights as they strung themselves along the top of the cave.
Conveniently located near Waitomo, visiting Hobbiton is a must for any fan of the terrific writing of J.R. Tolkien. Seeing the set of the “Hobbit” and learning about “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is fascinating in itself, but the intricacies of director Peter Jackson and the stunning landscape are enjoyable even if you’ve never heard of Gandalf the Wizard. Trust me when I say, visiting Hobbiton will leave you with a deepened respect for attention to detail.
Threaded through the cloth of New Zealand is the Maori culture and we were incredibly grateful for a heartfelt experience at Te Puia, the center for culture in Rotorua, New Zealand. As our Maori guide lead us through the geothermal springs, teaching us about her culture first hand, we were able to get close to the geysers, boiling mud and pools of water that are still used by the Maori to geothermally cook food today. Ah, and of course, no trip down under would be complete without seeing an endangered Kiwi bird (within a protected conservation area, of course).
I can speak to the advantages of group tours endlessly because I’ve seen them work for experienced and novice travelers alike. Queenstown, New Zealand is a great example. Here you stand in the “Adventure Capital of the World”. Will you relax on the shores of Lake Wakatipu? Hike the Remarkables? Bungee jump from the home of the original bungee on the Queenstown Bridge?
The good news is that whatever you pick, you’re not alone when you’re with a group. Typically, guests can find themselves on excursions with 2-15 other guests. Unless you choose the bungee, then you might just end up with me.
One destination that everyone can agree on is Fiordland National Park and the stunning Milford Sound, high on New Zealand’s southern island bucket list. We flew from Auckland to Queenstown in just under two hours and made our way to the National Park the following day. Rudyard Kipling called the Milford Sound the “eighth wonder of the world” only to be validated by the fact that it stands as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. It’s not hard to see why:
We arrived in Melbourne to a bit of a heatwave (welcomed since fleeing the polar vortex of Wisconsin) and anticipation of witnessing the Phillip Island penguin parade and driving the Great Ocean Road.
Perhaps the most special highlight for me was flying to Cairns to explore The Great Barrier Reef. Located off the coast of northern Australia featuring 1,400 miles of sprawling islands and coral reefs, one paradoxically, only needs to see a sliver to understand its place as the largest wonder of the world.
Discovered by the English explorer James Cook in 1770, how the reef was found is a testament to the classic adage of trusting the journey. Cook quite literally ran into the reef while on orders to document an eclipse of Venus and a secret naval mission to claim first dibs on a rumored southern continent for England. His ship was run aground on the reef for a full day before barely making it to the mouth of a river for repairs. Cook never discovered the southern continent that England had in mind, but he did discover the largest living organism in the world, eventually to be seen anywhere from ship sails to space: The Great Barrier Reef.
Not everybody went in the water. In my years of traveling with groups, the one thing I’ve been reminded of consistently is that everyone experiences things in their own way, including world wonders. But, what is truly amazing about the Great Barrier Reef is that you don’t need to see its entirety or be a deep-sea diver to experience the destination.
A 90-minute boat ride from Cairns will take you to a large structure pontoon that became our home for the day on the Outer Reef. The reef is usually referred to by inner, outer, and ribbon reef areas; the outer reef being further away from the mainland and the best area for visibility and biodiversity. While some guests snorkeled, others dived and some went in the semi-submersible watercraft where they were able to view fish, coral and sharks.
For a while, I stood on the high deck of the pontoon, watching travelers indulge in a place most people only read about in books. At one point an older gentleman stood next to me. Staring out at the reef, we both acknowledged the privilege of being in our current surroundings and bonded by gratitude, he turned to me and said,
“The mind makes promises the body can’t keep. It was my dream to come here so I made it happen while my body could still keep the promise.”
Truly, the most important promises are the ones we keep to ourselves.
The following day was free to spend exploring the rainforests of Cairns and relaxing by the pool at the resort. A lovely time in nature before heading to Australia’s largest city, Sydney.
The Opera House. Harbour Bridge. Manly Beach. Bonde Beach. Sydney Tower. Darling Harbour.
Oh, Sydney. How do we choose?
We chose all of the above. Going to a city as large as Sydney with a group tour will convince you of one choice for certain: It’s good to be on a group tour. Armed with a guide, local guides, a ferry, a bus and some free time, there were enough resources to make the absolute most of 3 days in Sydney; a city that could swallow you for months.
There are so many moments from this trip that I treasure and remember frequently. Interacting with kangaroos and koalas, sitting along the ocean as penguins marched to their burrows, eating amazing food in front of amazing views, natural wonders that brought tears to our eyes and taking pictures that “just don’t do it justice”. These special times were made even better by our bond and humor with each other, another gift of being in a group. After 17 days in New Zealand and Australia, we had gone from being couples, families and friends to something a bit more like the famous rugby playing “All Blacks” and “Wallabies”: A team.
Fox World Travel was recognized as a leader of Human Capital Management (HCM) when Ultimate Software awarded Fox with the 2019 Innovation Award for HR Transformation at their annual customer and partner conference.
As business travel continues to grow, so do the responsibilities of the modern day travel manager. Many are now tasked with event and meeting management in addition to corporate travel, and working with a single provider for both your business travel and meeting and incentive needs can bring several benefits to your organization.
Utilize Corporate Discounts
Always looking for ways to integrate personalization into the traveler journey, Fox World Travel is excited to launch an enhanced SeatFinder tool within its online booking platform, Concur Travel. This improvement over Fox’s existing SeatFinder allows the traveler to customize preferences at every leg of their trip through the same, easy-to-use interface they’ve come to know.
Through customer feedback and a desire to innovate, Fox used Concur Compleat technology to develop and deploy this tool. “Our partnership with SAP Concur is an exciting one that has led to the development of many innovative booking features. We are always looking for ways to use this technology to create a better traveler experience,” said Jared Bachman, Director of Travel Technology.
SeatFinder provides travelers the opportunity to enable or disable seat preferences for every flight, which automatically monitors seat availability and switches seats if a preferred seat becomes available, with no additional action required by travelers. Preferences can later be adjusted from a traveler’s itinerary page, allowing for quick customization at multiple points.
“Previously, travelers had to call agents to have their seat preferences changed,” said Ben Claxton, Online Technology Manager. “Rolling out this tool puts time back into the traveler’s day and give them more options, which is a win for everyone.”
You’re in Hawaii to relax. Soak up the sunshine, lay out on the beach and of course, treat yourself to a spa day you won’t forget. Read these spa treatments below for ideas on your next getaway to haute Hawaii.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach
Xolumado Village is a tranquil, remote resort located in the tropics of Riviera Maya. Xolumado started out as an idea from famous Mexican singer, Juan Gabriel. This idea became a reality after partnering with José and Delores Martinez, owners of Karisma Resorts. Jos scouted the secluded land that is home to Xolumado and worked with Juan to build his own private paradise.
You’ve waited for it and now it’s nearly here. But, what are you going to do after Game of Thrones ends? Fox World Travel suggests you create your own tour of Westeros and Essos. Walk north of the Wall where Jon Snow once walked, stroll the streets of royalty in Croatia and trek the long staircase to the home of the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea and, well, you know the rest. Find out where your favorite Game of Thrones scenes were filmed in our guide below.
With a Bachelor of Arts in global human geography and a minor in history, Clarissa Demmon has a passion for travel and different cultures no matter where she finds herself. Her hobbies of photography and cooking also feed into her love of travel, so on trips, she likes to take a lot of pictures in addition to trying new dishes native to her destination.
Clarissa has traveled all throughout the U.S. with some of her favorite states being Alaska, California and Nevada. She has also visited Mexico multiple times in addition to the islands of the Caribbean including Jamaica and St. Lucia. Demmon said, “Nothing is better than the crystal-clear waters, beauty and warmth of the Caribbean and its people.” When she isn’t exploring new locations, she enjoys spending time with her husband, friends and dog, as well as going to Milwaukee Brewers games and concerts as much as possible.
She finds herself fortunate to be a Tour Manager and escort Fox World Travel groups, including Alaska Fox Group Vacations in the summer and radio station groups in the winter. Demmon said, “It’s wonderful being a part of the client’s experience and excitement all while getting to know them. Vacations are about having the best time you can have and wanting to go back to for another adventure!”
If you’re interested in an Alaskan adventure, take a look at our upcoming Fox Group Vacations.
All across the U.S., wellness trends are on the rise. This is no different in the meetings and events industry. From pre-event to post, companies are finding ways to incorporate wellness into their events to enhance the employee and guest experience. When planning your next event, try to incorporate wellness into one or all these areas below.